Columbia Crew Was of 7 Different Faiths

In many ways, Clark's mission embodied some of the core principles of the Unitarian Universalist faith, which welcomes all spiritual beliefs and emphasizes social justice and world peace. Respect for "the interdependent web of all existence" — a Unitarian principle — was acknowledged by Clark in an interview she conducted with a reporter from the shuttle. Clark spoke of a silkworm cocoon she had seen hatch onboard. "There was a moth in there," she said, "and it was just starting to pump its wings up. Life continues in lots of places, and life is a magical thing."

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Finding Meaning in the Tragedy The Rev. Kit Ketcham scrapped her sermon on Feb. 2 and opened the service up to the congregation.

William McCool — Catholic

Cmdr. William C. McCool was a stand-out athlete and student, a Naval Academy graduate who ended up joining the military's most elite corps of pilots as an astronaut. At St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church in Clear Lake, Texas, McCool liked to blend in with the crowd. Though his mother described her son "Willie" as "deeply religious," the clergy at the contemporary church in Houston knew McCool, his wife and three sons only slightly.

But bowing their heads for the family during intercessions were McCool's fellow members of the close-knit space community. Hundreds of St. Bernadette's 3,500 families are connected to the Johnson Space Center, and many parishioners knew McCool as an outgoing, sometimes boisterous friend, neighbor and colleague. "He was very easy to get along with," Larry Rollins, a church member who worked with McCool as a test conductor told The Houston Chronicle. "He was very courteous to people." As in many Christian churches, St. Bernadette's regular Sunday services, held barely 24 hours after the news of the Columbia's breakup began to spread, became a center of the space community's grief. The pews were filled all weekend with parishioners "seeking an outpouring of faith and hope," in the wake of the tragedy, said St. Bernadette's pastor, Rev. J.J. McCarthy. A formal memorial service for McCool and his fellow astronauts is planned for this evening.

Read more: St. Bernadette's associate pastor Rev. Chris Kulig's Feb. 2 sermon

David Brown — Episcopalian

"If I'd been born in space I would desire to visit the beautiful Earth more than I ever yearned to visit space. It's a wonderful planet," wrote Capt. David Brown to his parents in the last e-mail they'd receive from him.

Brown was close to his parents, visiting their Virginia home often — once to deliver a computer so they could receive his e-mails from space. Though his own faith leanings were uncertain, his father was active at Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, Va. At the request of his father, Capt. Brown spoke to the church's Brotherhood of St. Andrew — a men's fellowship group — during one of his visits.

Episcopal churches in his parents' hometown and across the nation are mourning the loss of the shuttle crew; in Texas, several Episcopal churches are directly in the pathway of the debris. Many NASA employees and their families are parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle in Nassau Bay, Texas, where a Saturday night prayer vigil was held.

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